It Starts With Us: The Syrian Civil War & What We Can Do To Help From Far Away

Marissa Conway
A California girl based in London, Marissa navigates her way through expat living as a freelance writer, an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project, and founder and Editor-in-Chief of When she’s not glued to her MacBook, you’ll most likely find her on a plane en route to her next adventure

Although it’s fallen out of our newsfeed, this brutal, ongoing war in Syria is heartbreaking. In the span of just over five years, 250,000 Syrians have been killed, and about 11 million have been forced from their homes. We’ve all seen the footage of the young children’s lives lost and disrupted due to a conflict they had no part in creating.

Though we may be geographically far away, the power of social media brings this conflict into our everyday lives. It is so easy to scroll past the latest article that has popped up in our Twitter feeds, but I firmly believe we have a humanitarian responsibility to understand such significant and destructive events in order to 1) learn how, even from so far away, we can help; and 2) to do all in our power to ensure it never happens again.

How did it start?

The conflict began in 2011 when 15 children were arrested and allegedly tortured for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. Angered, people began peacefully protesting against the Assad government. On March 18, 2011, the army opened fire on the protesters and killed four. This initial act of violence has now grown to a fractious battle between various groups throughout the country and world.


Who’s involved?

The Syrian Civil War involves: the Syrian government against its opposition (which consists of several groups of rebels, political parties, and those who have been exiled), a religious conflict between the Alewite sect (allied with Shiite fighters from Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon) and the Sunni rebel groups, Kurdish groups in the north, and a war against ISIS — all of which has drawn in military activity from Russia, Iran, and the US and its allies.

Ever a woman of action, I find that in the face of the daunting and overwhelming, the best thing to do is simply ask: What can I do?


Donate to relief efforts.

We may not be physically present in Syria to aid those injured and displaced by the war, but we can support the ones that are. There are excellent charities that are on the ground and directly assisting Syrians. Check out the Center for International Disaster Information for a comprehensive and reputable list of charities and NGOs working both in Syria and with Syrian refugees.


Write to your elected officials.

The US plays no small part in shaping the war in Syria. Write to your elected officials and let them know: we need to prioritize humanitarian efforts to prevent the further loss of human life.


As always, learn more.

There are several comprehensive guides and reliable resources that go into intricate detail about the war, its causes, and the people affected.

I recommend:

Though we may be individually overwhelmed in the face of such abhorrent tragedy, collectively we can try make a difference.

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